Walking, Cooking, Eating, and Drinking in the Cinque Terre
with Pamela Sheldon Johns
Euro 2750/person, double occupancy
Includes 5 nights four-star accommodations,
all meals/beverages, classes/visits/tastings, guides,
and ground transportation (arrive/depart Levanto)
Our home base is in Levanto, a Slow Food City, which means they care a lot about good food and wine! The Levanto valley has 70 kms of footpaths linking 18 medieval hamlets, including the National Park and protected marine reserve of the Cinque Terre. “The Five Lands” of the Cinque Terre are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. These tiny, remote fishing villages are strung along the coast northwest of La Spezia, connected only by boat, rail, and footpaths… no cars. We will have daily walks with a professional walking and historic guide. The level of exercise is moderate, always with an option to not participate.
While Monterosso is the largest and most developed of the towns, Vernazza, with its pink slate-roofed houses and picturesque piazzas, has the best-equipped port. Corniglia is the highest of the Cinque Terre villages, perched more than 300 feet above the sea on a promontory. The cozy, classic seaside town of Manarola is the center of Cinque Terre’s wine production. The Via del’Amore (Lover’s Way) connects Manarola to Riomaggiore, the last of the Cinque Terre towns. In addition to the Cinque Terre, we will reach south to Portovenere, in search of good walks, good food, and good wine.
The region of Liguria has the benefit of a long coastline protected by mountains, giving it a climate inducive to a longer growing season and the production of full-flavored ingredients such as olives, grapes, basil, vegetables, anchovies and other fresh seafood, chickpeas, lemons, wild herbs, walnuts, and pine nuts. These ingredients have evolved into traditional recipes that are still respected today.
The Cinque Terre also produce two unique wines, Cinque Terre D.O.C. a dry, white wine, Sciacchetrà, a dessert wine, and we mustn’t forget the limoncino! Find out why it is different than limoncello…
Once we are settled in our dreamy ocean view hotel in Levanto, we’ll head out to Monterosso al Mare for a welcome aperitivo and wine overview. For dinner, an al fresco meal of freshly caught fish, including fava beans served with pecorino and salumi. We will also learn how to make limoncino with the fragrant Monterosso lemons.
Afternoon is free to relax by our hotel pool, then we head down to Levanto for a demonstration of the Levanto specialty: gattafin, a wild herb and pecorino fritter. Light dinner of local salume, cheeses, bruschette, salad, and gattafin with an assortment of Ligurian wines. After dinner, gelato and a stroll around Levanto.
After breakfast, our first stop is an orientation walk in Monterosso al Mare. Fortified and warmed up with a cappuccino, we strike out for Vernazza. The walk from Monterosso to Vernazza takes about 2 hours without stopping, is probably the most rugged of the legs of the Cinque Terre, with many steep ups and downs (from sea level to 540 feet above sea level). Time permitting, a short walk around charming Vernazza, then a relaxing coastline cruise and aperitivo on the boat. Once we are back in Monterosso, we will have a hands-on class to learn how to make crozetti (also known as corzetti), a hand-stamped pasta typical of Liguria along with some interesting appetizers and a special dessert.
After a leisurely breakfast, we return to Monterosso for a cooking class at our favorite osteria. After our lesson, we start our walk to Vernazza. This stretch is the wildest and greenest walk of the coast, but we need to make good time (or be late for lunch!). We return to Monterosso for lunch which will include what we learned in the morning as well as a special lasagna made with pesto and a heavenly light fresh pasta.
Down into Levanto at your leisure. We will meet at a local restaurant for a visit in the kitchen and a demonstration of their delicious chocolate torta.
This morning train all the way to Riomaggiore to visit award-winning winemaker Walter de Batté. He will give us (small) tastes of his Cinque Terre white wine and Sciacchetrà (we’ll bring the rest of the bottle with us for a real tasting later!) …then we’re off to walk along the Lovers' Way or "Via dell'Amore" to Manarola (30 minute-walk). In Manarola, we catch a bus up to a little village to enjoy a delightful lunch. Our menu will include a fresh seafood antipasto; pasta with ‘pesto di mare’ (not a basil pesto, but a seafood and fava bean pesto); fresh fish of the day with spring garlic and Albenga zucchini; and lemon mousse with strawberries and blueberries.
After lunch, we will visit an olive oil mill, then take the bus back down to Manarola to the workshop of the Cinque Terre National Park. Here you can taste olive oil, anchovies, and limoncino.
For those who would like to finish the path, it is a gentle walk from Manarola to the Corniglia Railway Station, the last uncovered stretch of our Cinque Terre hike, then train back to Levanto).
This afternoon is free to further explore the Cinque Terre towns, or shop in Levanto, or take a break at the hotel. Dinner is in Levanto.
After breakfast, we pack up and transfer to Portovenere and across the Gulf of Poets to the island of Palmaria for lunch at a mythic locanda known for traditional, fresh preparations of local foods. Today you will taste calamari gratinati, muscoli ripieni, crema di peperoni con gamberi, fritto di locanda, astice in catalana, tortino di acciughe, baccala alla genovese, filleto di scorfano al peper rosa, two pastas with fresh seafood, a salad, and strawberries and gelato. Whew.
After lunch, you can choose from:
- return to the hotel and/or visit Portovenere. Portovenere is like a time capsule, colorful and well-preserved. Enter through the castle gate that dates back to 1113, walk down the narrow charming street that is the heart of the village. Stop to taste the local pesto and the delicate Ligurian olive oils from the local hillsides.
- stay to explore Palmaria. There are many sights on the island, including caves where Paleolithic evidence was discovered in the 19th century, also the 19th-century fortress of Umberto I, which now houses a museum dedicated to the oceanography and undersea archeology of the Mediterranean.
- take a ferry around the three islands.
This evening we will walk along the waterfront lined with little fishing boats, to one of Pamela’s favorite restaurants.
After breakfast, there will be one transfer to the La Spezia train station, arriving La Spezia at approximately 9:45 a.m. Please do not schedule rail departures prior to 10 a.m.
Workshops in Cinque Terre
The price of Euro 2750 (currency converter) is all-inclusive of ground transportation, meals, wines, and lodging (double occupancy).
- 16 - 21 May 2018: FULL
- 17 - 22 September 2018
Groups of five or more can book an exclusive week any time year-round.